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New Orleans. The name lazily rolls off the tongue, merging into one long syllable that perfectly represents the laid back nature of the city. But while the Southern hospitality and slower pace may immediately relax you, there is plenty of life to the ol’ city, as you’ll discover.
See: The Chalmette Battlefield offers up a taste of history, with compelling views.
Eat: The soft shell crab at Galatoire’s is legendary in the French Quarter, and for a very good reason.
Drink: Thought to be the world’s oldest mixed drink, the Sazerac is also the official cocktail of New Orleans. And why not sample it at the place named in its honour, The Sazerac Bar.
History: The Lafayette Cemetery is the city’s earliest cemetery, and has a gothic feel.
Relax: Get along to Preservation Hall and enjoy some authentic New Orleans jazz.
Adventure: Go kayaking in the Tupelo Swamps.
Shopping: The historical French Quarter is a mecca.
Art & Culture: Visit New Orleans Musical Legends Park and learn all about where jazz music started
It’s official: New Orleans has the most historical sites in America. That’s not just favouritism, there are twenty different historic districts listed on the National Register, which is more than any other US city. While it’s a bit of hike to hit them all, an easy shortcut back in time is to hop the New Orleans Streetcar, in itself an amazing piece of history, operating since the 1800s. The streetcar winds through many major streets in New Orleans, and — leaning into the old-timey charm of the city — the operators often give guided tours, pointing out landmarks of interest.
The St. Louis Cathedral is a sight to behold – a majestic three-steepled masterpiece of engineering and design. It’s been in operation since the late 1700s — although hurricanes have gutted previous incarnations — and offers free tours of the inside and the gardens. While it is a beauty, the gardens might leave you feeling a little sad, being the mass grave site of numerous plague victims from the 1700s.
War buffs will wanna hit up the Historic New Orleans Collection, a museum and research centre located in the historic French Quarter that focuses on the Battle of New Orleans and the War of 1812, while just down the road music history fans will delight in the The New Orleans Jazz National Historic Park, which hosts films and lectures, and gives walking tours of famous recording studios, venues, and birthplaces – best of all, it’s always free and always open to the public.
As the name suggests, Bourbon Street is soaked in landmarks that point to the city’s coloured, decadent past. Splitting the city’s oldest neighbourhood, The French Quarter, and running for thirteen long blocks, Bourbon Street was the birthplace of jazz music, and was once considered a hive of deplorable behaviour, with drinking, gambling, prostitution, and loose morals. Known mostly for its many jazz bars and strip joints, the area comes alive at night – but offers far more than those twin options. In fact, many complained that the area was Disneyfied during the ’80s, and resembles a mere caricature of its former self, however there is plenty of mischief to be had there if you avoid the souvenir shops. Spirits on Bourbon, The Famous Door, and The Cat’s Meow are among the most popular bars in the area, while New Orleans Musical Legends Park offers up family-free jazz concerts as well as a walk through the area’s rich jazz history.
If you’re heading to New Orleans, you simply have to try as much of the food as possible – waistline, be damned! “New Orleans food is as delicious as the less criminal forms of sin”, wrote Mark Twain, and this remains true. If you wanna get adventurous, you’ll want to try an odd-sounding pork sausage named ‘boudin’ (assuming you’re not a vego) made up of pig’s heart (stay with us), pig’s liver, and rice in a pork casing. These are widely available around the city, and are often served with mustard.
More specifically — and for a taste of history — you’ll wanna try a po-boy sandwich, which was first made and named to serve to striking streetcar workers back in the day. These things are huge — up to 50cms — and come crammed with a variety of meats and fillings. Parkway Bakery & Tavern on Bayou St is the most popular place to find these, although stores are scattered throughout the city. If seafood is more your thing, you can’t get more Southern than boiled crawfish. Check out Saints and Sinners on Bourbon Street, which is owned by Channing Tatum, and hosts everything from bucks nights to impromptu parties. Plus, it has that Channing seal of approval.
Crawfish image from Saints and Sinners | Po boy image from Parkway Bakery & Tavern
Posted by Nathan Jolly | Images from ShutterStock, unless otherwise noted
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